Flying with our furry friends: PCS nightmare made easy

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- I cannot say that making a permanent-change-of-station move for anyone is ever an easy task; but in my situation, I'm lucky to not have to make arrangements for a spouse, children and an entire household of belongings. I keep it simple - It's just me, a few pieces of furniture and Cooper the Beagle.

While the rest of a PCS may be uncomplicated and smooth, it can be a hassle to ensure my Beagle's affairs are in order so he can travel with me. The following are steps and tips may help to ensure you and your pet arrive safely at your next destination.

When you first receive your assignment notification, you should also receive an Air Force Form 1546, a Request for PCS Port Call. On this form, you can request space for your pet to travel with you when you move. Information required on this form includes kennel dimensions; age, gender and breed of the pet, and the total weight of the pet and kennel together. Once completed, return the form to the passenger travel office.

Travel arrangements should be made as early as possible to allow for flexibility, but no earlier than 90 days from the requested departure date. If commercial travel arrangements are made, it's important to research that airline's requirements for pet travel. There are also requirements for how much room the pet has in its kennel, the water container in the kennel, and food availability for long flights or flights with layovers.

There are also important documents needed for airlines to allow pets on board or in cargo. Whenever I have travel arrangements made, I also make an appointment with the veterinarian. I want to make sure Cooper the Beagle's shots are valid at least until I settle into my new home. It is during this initial vet visit that I also inquire about any country-specific items I will need to address or at least get the appropriate points of contact. I then make an appointment as close to my departure date as possible to get a health certificate valid through my travel dates.

As for country-specific information and requirements, it's important to check with the veterinarian who can point you in the right direction as rules and regulations may vary.

The key is to plan as far in advance as possible to make sure both you and your pet travel stress-free.

So here's a rundown for the folks who prefer receiving simple steps:

1. Upon receiving assignment notification and projected departure date, complete AF Form 1546 with necessary pet information.
2. Whether flying AMC Express or commercial, ensure space availability for the pet. If space is available, inquire about requirements for your pet to fly on that particular airline.
3. Make an appointment with the veterinarian to update shots and inquire about country-specific requirements.
4. Make a veterinarian appointment as close to the departure date as possible to get a pet health certificate.

The most important thing to remember is, ask if you are ever unsure. It would be unfortunate to have to keep your pet in quarantine or not be able to fly with your pet because you overlooked a step or forgot a document. Hopefully these tips make arranging your pet's travels easier as you prepare for your new assignment. Have a safe and pleasant journey, and good luck in your new assignment.

(Information from a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron article, as well as the author's personal experiences, were used to write this article.)